Monday, January 9, 2012

stitch by stitch

Each morning sees some task begun, each evening sees it close; Something attempted, something done, has earned a night's repose.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882) poet & educator

merton and i have been very busy in the studio - i recently started a series of memory quilts. i have to confess that i am quite preoccupied by the project. but that said, i am hopeful that it won't be too long before i find a rhythm and balance to my days where i will soon reconnect with my mouse medicine muse and the bloggyhood - until then i wish everyone a happy new year!

this series that is underway is a group of quilts that i'm making primarily from the shirts of a dear friend named jeff who died this fall. i first met jeff in 1979 when donita, one of my closest friends from college, brought him 'home' to texas (where we were living and where donita and i met in 1973) to introduce him to her family and friends. several years later they married. we remained close. in the early 1990s donita and jeff relocated to metro dc and settled into a house just a couple miles away from where my folks live - what a wonderful gift this was as now we had many opportunities for sharing our lives - we met up frequently either in metro dc or where f and i lived - connecticut and then cleveland.

a month before jeff died, i saw him while i was on a trip to metro dc to visit my mom. during that visit jeff was in the hospital, he was in good spirits and was looking forward to getting out of the hospital in a day or two. we were all hopeful that he was going to get stronger and beat the "weird infection" that he was battling - - or at least "an infection" was the prevailing theory about why he was ill from july through september.

there were still tests to come in, but in late september we had no idea that when the tests came back the news would be so grave. jeff was discharged home, however, after only a couple days he showed no improvement and was getting worse, so it was back to the hospital. while in the hospital, the rest of the test results came in - the news was dire - a diagnosis of stage four cancer - unknown primary location. the cancer was widespread and completely invasive - there was nothing that medically could be done. jeff was discharged home with hospice care - and one week after learning the diagnosis jeff died.

too sad. too tragic.

there is no such thing as a good death for a person who is only 58 with still half a life or more ahead to live. but there is comfort in knowing that jeff's suffering was not drawn out and there there is even more comfort in knowing that jeff was surrounded and lovingly tended to by those he loved - his wife and daughter, and some other family and friends who were able to make it to town or lived near.

six weeks after jeff died, there was a beautiful celebration of his life. jeff's send off was moving, absolutely heartfelt, and healing. donita asked if i could make some small memory quilts for his sibs and his mother, his two best friends, and a quilt for her and their daughter out of jeff's shirts. of course i said yes, i am so honored to be so entrusted to such a task. so in november before heading back to cleveland after the celebration of jeff's life, donita, zoe and i went through jeff's closet and filled up two big bags with his shirts - most of jeff's shirts are colorful and bold - like the man he was and the man he will always be in the hearts and minds of those who were privileged to know him. each day i work on the project i feel the healing power of memory and love - i hope that when they are done this power will be extended to those who receive the finished works.

stitch by stitch sung by javier colon


Steve Reed said...

Wow. What a sad (and scary!) story. Those memory quilts sound like a great healing tool both for you and for his family. A very good idea.

Kate Hanley said...

So beautiful and touching. I hope that will smile often at fond memories of Jeff as you make the quilts.

Randeep said...

What a beautiful post, Kim. You're lucky to have such a clever new companion to keep you companies as you work through all those memories, too.

Watson said...

What a wonderful way to remember someone.

Lora said...

I love memory quilts, and I'm so glad you are able to do this for everyone